Cloudy skies and windy weather greeted a group of Western University Alumni and their children, which included 67 visitors (about 40 children and 27 adults), for the Special Event, Little Astronauts’ Space Expedition, Saturday, April 28th, 2018, 1:00—3:00 p.m. Welcoming them and conducting the event were graduate students Viraja Khatu and Dan Hatfield; PhD graduate and Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) Outreach Program Coordinator Parshati Patel; and Professor Jan Cami. RASC London Centre was represented by Henry Leparskas and Bob Duff.
Professor Jan Cami started with a slide presentation “Space & Astronomy @Western” and the visitors were then divided into 3 groups to rotate between different stations. Viraja Khatu gave 3 demonstrations of the “Crater Experiment” on the floor of the lecture room. There were tours of the dome and demonstrations of the “Transit Demo” and “Spectroscopy Demo” in the downstairs “Black Room” and tours of the “1940s Period Room.”
When the visitors arrived upstairs in the dome, Parshati Patel gave a talk on the history of the observatory and technical aspects of the big 25.4cm refractor in the dome. Since it was cloudy, the observatory’s 90mm Coronado H-Alpha Solar Telescope was set up on the Sky-Watcher EQ5 mount for display in the dome. Parshati invited the visitors to climb the observing ladder and view the communications tower in south London through the 25.4cm refractor (Meade 28mm Super Wide Angle eyepiece, 157X). Professor Jan Cami explained the 2 clocks on the east wall of the dome and the difference between Standard and Sidereal Time as the visitors lined up to view through the 25.4cm refractor.
On the observation deck outside the dome, Bob Duff supervised as visitors viewed the wind turbine on the Engineering building through the observatory’s Meade 8-inch (20.3cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain (26mm Tele Vue Plossl eyepiece, 77X) and the London Centre’s 25.4cm Dobsonian (17mm Nagler eyepiece, 66X). Bob later redirected the 20.3cm Schmidt-Cassegrain towards the communications tower at the request of a young visitor.
Downstairs in the “Black Room” Dan Hatfield did the “Transit Demonstration” activity, with the “Transit Demo” model—showing how the transit detection method worked for finding extra-solar planets, and the “Spectroscopy Demonstration,” with the visitors putting on diffraction grating glasses to view the spectra of 4 gas discharge lamps, including hydrogen, helium, neon and mercury. Henry Leparskas gave them a tour of the historic “1940s Period Room,” a recreation of Dr. H. R. Kingston’s 1940 office, with his brass refractor and the Sotellunium—a mechanical eclipse demonstration model built by W. G. Colgrove—on display.
The visitors were gone by around 3:00 p.m. after a very interesting and enjoyable visit to the observatory, despite the cloudy sky.